Tuesday, February 28

Photo Challenge, Starts with "L"

Good morning, friends! 

Not feeling very "wordy" today. So I will leave you with this darkly edited (which for some reason I am loving) photo I entered in the Photoblog Challenge, Starts with "L". Make sure and stop by their blog. Some amazingly talented photographers!

Have a great day!

Monday, February 27

Parmesan Roasted Potatoes

Potatoes and cheese...yes please! These potatoes are light and tasty. A great side for almost any meal. If you can't find Dutch yellow potatoes at your local grocer, any potatoes will do. Just adjust your roasting time more or less, depending on the type you choose. Test with a fork about 1/2 way through the cooking time to help prevent them from becoming over cooked.

8 - 10 baby Dutch yellow potatoes
5 - 6 tsp. grated Parmesan cheese
1 TBLS. olive oil
garlic powder, to taste
sea salt and black pepper, to taste
fresh chopped parsley (garnish)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 9 x 13 inch baking dish with non stick spray. Set aside. 

Boil potatoes for 5 - 6 minutes, drain and cool.

Once cooled, slice into fourths and combine with Parmesan cheese, olive oil, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Mix well and place in prepared baking dish.

Roast in oven for 30 - 35 minutes, testing for tenderness with a fork. Re-season with spices if needed. Garnish with fresh parsley before serving.


Friday, February 24

Slow Cooker Cajun Pork Loin

I thought I would try something new other than the traditional pork loin I normally make a couple times a month in the crock pot. All three of us love how tender and juicy a tenderloin in the crock pot can be. This recipe also produces some really tasty juices to make a light gravy with and the pork practically melts in your mouth. Serve with your favorite potatoes and be ready for seconds!

1 small onion
1 small green pepper
3 TBLS. butter
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp. dried thyme
1 tsp. paprika
1/2 each salt, white pepper and pepper
1/2 tsp. ground mustard
1/2 tsp. hot pepper sauce
1 boneless pork loin roast (about 4 lbs)
2 tsp. cornstarch
2 tsp. cold water

Finely chop vegetables and saute in a large skillet with the butter until tender. Add garlic and cook 1 minute longer. Stir in all seasonings and hot pepper sauce.

Cut roast in half. Cut several slits in roast within 1/2 inch from the bottom. Place in slow cooker. Spoon vegetable mixture into the slits and over the top of the roast. Cover and cook on low 6 - 8 hours.

Transfer roast to a serving platter and cover to keep warm. Pour cooking juices from slow cooker into a small saucepan. Combine cornstarch and water in a separate bowl until smooth and then stir into the pan of juices. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened. Serve over the roast. 

Thursday, February 23

Wednesday, February 22

Taco Roll-Ups

Good morning! It seems as my successes in cooking and baking add up, so does my list of "I want/need to try that". In fact, I tried four new recipes yesterday and they all were definite keepers. Not only is my family eating better, but I am having so much fun too!

These roll-ups lasted about 5 minutes. If you like tacos, this is a neat way to add a twist (literally) to your menu.

1 lb. ground beef
1 envelope taco seasoning
2/3 cup water
1 lb. frozen bread dough, thawed
2 cups grated medium cheddar cheese

Brown ground beef. Drain. Add taco seasoning and water. Simmer for 5 - 10 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Roll thawed dough into a long rectangle, about 20 x 8 inches.

Spread ground beef over dough, leaving about 1 inch of dough on each long side free of filling. Top with grated cheese. Roll up as for cinnamon rolls, starting with the long edge closest to you. Pinch seam to seal.

Slice the roll into 1 inch thick slices with a serrated knife. Place rolls 2 inches apart onto a cookie sheet that has been sprayed with cooking spray.

If any filling falls out, just press it into the top of the rolls. Bake at 350 degrees for about 25 minutes or until golden brown.

Serve warm with salsa or sour cream for dipping. Yum!

Tuesday, February 21

Beef and Broccoli ~ Dust Off Those Woks

I have not cooked using a wok before this recipe. At least not that I can remember. I had my brand new wok collecting dust in the corner, meaning to try it but not quite getting around to it (for like two years!). I can't imagine why not because not only are the creations sooo good but it's also a lot of fun! I loved using mine and hope to share many more wok recipes with you in the future. NOTE: in my excitement, I saved the wrong photos from my sd card and am only left with this horrible one. Don't let it stop you from trying this recipe though, it is amazing.

1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. sugar
1 TBLS. cornstarch
1 TBLS. low sodium soy sauce
1 TBLS. water
2 TBLS. olive oil
1.5 lbs. steak of your choice, sliced into thin strips

Whisk together baking soda, sugar, cornstarch, soy sauce, water and olive oil in a large bowl. Toss the steak in the marinade to coat. Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour.

Then gather these ingredients:

1/2 cup low sodium soy sauce
2 TBLS. brown sugar
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 TBLS. flour
3 TBLS. olive oil
2 heads of broccoli, crowns only

In a small bowl, stir together soy sauce, brown sugar, garlic and flour until smooth. Set aside.

Heat 2 TBLS. of the oil in a large wok over high heat until simmering. Add broccoli and saute 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Transfer broccoli to a plate.

Carefully add the remaining tablespoon of oil to the wok. Add the marinated steak and half of the sauce mixture. Saute for 3 - 4 minutes, stirring often, until the meat is cooked through and no longer pink. Stir in the broccoli and the remaining sauce. Saute 1 minute more. Serve over rice.

*make sure and use LOW sodium soy sauce or this will be much too salty. 

Monday, February 20

Chili Cheese Hash Brown Bake

Another hearty, delicious recipe I recently added to my weeknight easy menu. Not only is so simple to put together after a long day, but you can spice this up or down as much as you want. I wanted to keep this family friendly so Spencer could enjoy it to. 

To kick it up a notch, just add some cayenne pepper or replace the chili beans with hot ones.

1-1/2 lbs. lean ground beef
1 (15.5 oz) can original sloppy joe sauce
1 (15 oz.) can chili with beans
1/2 bag (30 oz.) frozen country-style shredded hash browns (about 4 cups)
2 cups (8 oz.) shredded medium cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Brown beef in a large skillet. Break it apart well until crumbles. Stir in sloppy joe mix and chili.

Spoon mixture into a lightly greased 9 x 13 inch baking dish. Top with frozen hash browns.

Bake uncovered for about 30 minutes, uncover and bake 10 minutes more or until edges are brown and crisp. Sprinkle with cheese and bake 5 minutes more or until cheese is melted.

Biscuits or bread-sticks are a great side too!

Friday, February 17

Make Your Own Restaurant Style Garlic Bread

Good morning, friends! 

A recipe I am always experimenting with is garlic bread/garlic sticks. One, I am a starch nut and two, all three of us love our garlic and bread. Often times when I am at a restaurant, while I am savoring all the good flavors, I am also trying to figure out what ingredients they have used. All it takes is an extra ingredient, or two, to really make some breads mouth watering. You know what I mean, right? Right.

Some garlic breads are sweeter than others and I think I have found out why. Honey. Simple as that. Adding a little honey gives your bread just enough sweetness to compliment both the garlic and the cheese. Don't knock it until you try it! 

Here is a quick, easy recipe if you want to give it a try.

1/4 cup margarine, softened
1 tsp. fresh minced garlic
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1 prepackaged pizza crust
1 tsp. honey

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Combine butter and garlic. Spread over pre-made crust. Top with mozzarella cheese. Drizzle with honey.

Bake 10 -15 minutes, or until cheese is golden brown and melted. Slice and enjoy!

Thursday, February 16

Photo Challenge ~ Love

My sweet Spencer wearing his Valentine headband he made in school. The two upside down hearts in the middle, yep, that's my boy!

I linked up with Spun With Tears, Thursday Photo Challenge: Love.

Wednesday, February 15

Slow Cooker Meatballs ~ Appetizers

I love trying new appetizer recipes. Who am I kidding, I love trying any new recipe. Even better if I can use my slow cooker! A couple of weeks ago when I went to clean mine out, I realized it had a huge crack down one side. I seriously felt like crying. Sure it is just a slow cooker but I had had it since I moved out of my mom's house when I was 18. It had brought many great meals to my table and traveled with me during my many moves. I was sad to see it go, really.

John bought me a shiny new black one I have yet to try out. Can't wait though!

This meatball recipe requires a little more effort than my past meatball recipes. More prep time and ingredients. While they are meant to be appetizers, with the thick, hearty sauce they produce while cooking, they can also be used over potatoes or pasta. Might also work in small buns as sliders. 

3 lbs. lean ground beef
4 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1/2 cups seasoned bread crumbs
1 1/2 cups tomato juice
2 small onions, minced
4 tsp. salt
4 tsp. prepared horseradish
pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Combine all ingredients and shape into 1" balls. Place in deep baking dish and brown in oven for 10 minutes. Remove and drain. 

1/4 cup butter
2 Tbls. lemon juice
2 small onions, chopped
1/4 cup ketchup
1/2 cup flour
2 tsp. salt
3 cups beef broth
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 cup red cooking wine
pepper, to taste

In a large skillet, melt butter. Add onions and saute until golden brown. Blend in flour. Add broth, stirring until smooth. Stir in remaining ingredients and simmer over low heat for 15 minutes. Add meatballs. Simmer about 5 minutes more.

Pour into slow cooker. Heat on low. Use toothpicks to serve.

Tuesday, February 14

Photoblog Challenge ~ Romantic

Happy Valentine's Day! 

I linked up with Photoblog Challenges. Make sure and stop by to see all the entries in their Romantic Challenge. Some very talented photographers!

Monday, February 13

Pepperoni Crescent Roll Calzones

 recipe from themenumom.com

We have come to love crescent roll recipes in this house. Since we are already pizza lovers, these pockets of pepperoni and cheese were a nice change to our menu.

Easy to make, you can serve these for lunch or dinner with a side dish or alone as a snack or appetizer. Either way, you can't go wrong!

1 can refrigerated crescent rolls
pepperoni slices
shredded mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup pizza sauce, plus more for dipping
garlic powder
dried oregano
dried basil

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease or spray cookie sheet.

Unroll dough on cookie sheet and separate into 4 rectangles. Press each into a 7 x 4 inch rectangle, firmly pressing perforations to seal. Spread 1 TBLS. sauce on each triangle. Place 4 pepperoni slices on top of each sauced triangle. Sprinkle 2 TBLS. cheese over each triangle. 

Fold dough over filling; firmly pressing edges with a fork to seal. Sprinkle the top of each calzone with garlic powder, dried oregano and dried basil.

Bake 15 - 20 minutes or until deep golden brown. Remove immediately from cookie sheet. Serve warm.

Little pockets of goodness!

Friday, February 10

Photo Friday ~ Handsome Pug

Dexter ~ a.k.a., Al Pugcino~ 

One of the rare moments that Dexter is sitting still.

I linked up with Photo Friday's challenge, Handsome.

Thursday, February 9

Thursday Photo Challenge ~ Red

Just living is not enough... one must have sunshine, freedom, and a little flower.
~Hans Christian Anderson ~

I linked up with Spun with Tears

Wednesday, February 8

Easy Skillet Potatoes and Kielbasa

I will start this recipe off with a disclaimer. There are sure to be healthier and more varied versions of this recipe. This is my version and how we like it. We like margarine, like in major amounts. I use butter in my baking but always use margarine in my cooking. This is a basic, full of flavor, weeknight easy recipe for us. Stick to your gut food and boy is it good!

3 lbs. russet potatoes
1 ring of kielbasa
1 1/2 - 2 sticks margarine
Lawry's seasoning salt
onion salt
garlic salt
salt and pepper to taste

Spray large skillet with non stick spray or olive oil. Peel potatoes and cut into 1/4 inch disks. Place potatoes in skillet and top with 1 stick of margarine, cut into smaller squares. Sprinkle entire top with Lawry's. Using lesser amounts, sprinkle with onion and garlic salt. Without stirring, cover and heat on med - low heat for a minimum of 20 minutes. 

After about 20 minutes, remove cover and stir gently. Cut kielbasa into 1/4 inch circles and add to skillet. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to your liking.

Cover and heat another 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally. As potatoes become more tender, make sure to stir as gently as possible to keep them from breaking up. 

Test potatoes with a fork for tenderness and also add additional seasoning if needed. At this point, I may also add some more margarine slices if I feel it needs them. I usually do!

Serve immediately and be ready for the second helping requests.

*note: I use yellow potatoes (not gold) whenever I can find them at my local grocer. When I do, I add less seasonings as the yellow potatoes have their own amazing flavor. I also cut down the cooking time by 5-10 minutes per step. Yellow potatoes are less dense and will turn mushy if cooked too long. 

Tuesday, February 7

Have You Hugged Your Beardie Today?

My beautiful bearded dragon, Sun (any Lost fans out there?).

 I really do love most animals, with the exception of spiders and cats. If I didn't have John to reign me in with his common sense, who knows how many critters I might have. They are more than just pets, they become part of the family when they come to my house. Silly as it sounds, they become my friends too. 

John got me Sun as a Christmas gift over 3 years ago. While I have always admired bearded dragons, I have not thought of actually bringing one home. I mean they look kind of scary or at the very least, grumpy. They can be, well, intimidating to say the least. 

Sun is one of the neatest, gentlest sweeties I have ever known. If you are not familiar with beardies, they can be amazing pets. They really don't do much of anything. Contrary to their looks, they are so very sweet and yes, cuddly. She likes to bask in her sun lights all day, eat, sleep and be lazy. When she is happy, she turns the beautiful shades of orange you see above. She also loves to be petted and sleep on my lap. Oh, and my annoying baby talk I can't seem to stop using makes her the happiest of all! She has really become a great companion to me. I love her very much and she seems to love me back.

Beardies are great with kids too. Who would have known by looking at that face?

If you are interested, I would be glad to pass on any knowledge I have gained about bearded dragons. If you are looking for a great pet for yourself or the family, you really should look into these beauties. 

I linked up with Photoblog Challenges theme: Orange.

Monday, February 6

Red Velvet Krispies

 recipe from passthesushi.com

Like red velvet, chocolate and rice krispies? Yeah, me too! Usually when a dessert looks this great, a lot of work is involved. Not so with this recipe. So pretty and super easy to make a batch. The bright red coloration makes them perfect for Valentine's Day but really, these krispies are sure to be a hit with any occasion. Kid friendly too! 

You could also use cookie cutters to make shapes (after they have cooled). Another way to get the kids involved in the kitchen.

Make sure to grab one of these for yourself as they won't last long!

3 Tbls. butter
1 (10.5 oz) bag mini marshmallows
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3/4 cup red velvet cake mix
6 cups cocoa Rice Krispies cereal
4 oz. white chocolate chips, melted

Line a 9 x 13" pan with wax or parchment paper; coat well with cooking spray and set aside.

In a large saucepan, melt the butter over low heat. Add marshmallows, cake mix and vanilla, stirring frequently until melted and smooth. Fold in the cereal until well combined and coated.

Transfer the sticky cereal mixture to the prepared pan, pressing down until the top is level. Drizzle white chocolate over the top.

I wanted to make the photos for this with a Valentine's theme but was called in to work for a few hours. I brought a plateful along. Even short-staffed they only lasted minutes. Yeah!

Friday, February 3

You're Only As Tall as Your Heart will Let You Be ~ Photo Friday

You're only as tall as your heart will let you be and you're only as small as the world will make you seem.

Have a wonderful weekend, my friends!

I linked up with Photo Friday

Thursday, February 2

Thursday Photo Challenge ~ One

“Words and feathers are easily scattered, but not easily gathered up”

I linked up with Spun with Tears

Have a great day, everyone!

Wednesday, February 1

Mini Raspberry Heart Cakes

 recipe from opensourcefood.com

Mmmmm...raspberry. One of my favorite flavors ever. Have you ever had raspberry syrup on your pancakes? If so, the filling for these is very close to that, if not better. 

Not only are these so easy and fun to make, but they are so cute. Perfect for any Valentine in your life. 

I think you could make many variations of this with different fruits, shapes and toppings. I plan on trying some down the road to hopefully share with you. I just thought these perfect for Valentine's Day. If you try any, please make sure and let me know!

1 box yellow cake mix
1 cup raspberry jam
2 Tbls. water
2 pkg. fresh raspberries
1 oz. white chocolate

Bake cake according to package instructions. Cool completely.

Using a large heart shaped cookie cutter, cut cake into heart shapes. Split each heart horizontally into 2 layers of equal thickness.

Boil raspberry jam with water until thickened and brush onto top of each heart. Brush the darker, smoother side of the cut cake.

Stack two hearts together, forming a heart sandwich with the filling in the center. 

Arrange raspberries on top. Brush the raspberries with more jam. 

Drizzle melted white chocolate over tops. 

The kids might want to help too! 

*I used a 4" heart cookie cutter and made 5 mini cakes.